I wasn’t aware how much I needed my ass kicked by some epic, trve metal of the olden style until said ass kicking was delivered by Utah’s Visigoth and their debut, The Revenant King. Their mega hefty, uber manly metal owes a lot to ancestors like Grand Magus, Argus, Sinister Realm and of course, Manila Road, and naturally, they specialize in long, bulky odes to swords, battle and honor (“Oathcore” for short). They do it all well and with a large dose of sincerity and seriousness, and when they sound the battle horn, even the most pacifistic will find themselves suiting up and girding those loins. By Crom, what else can you ask from your Mano-metal?
In honor of their namesake Germanic barbarians, Visigoth waste no time with fancy intros, opting to sack your intellectual property right off the bat with the mammoth title track. The burly, thick riffs immediately recall Hammer of the North era Grand Magus and the tough, rough-hewn vocals of Jake Rogers are a dead ringer for Alex Kristof (Sinister Realm) and the late Tony Taylor of Twisted Tower Dire. Most importantly though, the song rocks hard and rides free with the powerful punch this genre lives by. As Rogers roars about stolen thrones and unholy wengeance, you’ll feel the burn and want some payback of your own. It’s just good old headbanging glory, with testosterone levels set to stupefy and it’s one of my favorites of the young year in metal.
The rest of the album follows suit, with one stout-of-heart rocker after another. “Dungeon Master” may have an eye-rolling title, and the lyrics don’t help one bit, but they play it so deadly straight and heavy, it works despite the cheese factor. Even easier to get behind is the crunching doom juggernaut of “Mammoth Rider” where Rogers does his best pre-battle rabble rousing and speechifying. Likewise, the fist pumping righteousness of “Iron Brotherhood” cries out for a frat house bonding bender with your idiot buddies, just like classic Manowar once did.
“Vengeance” is the obligatory Conan themed anthem of…vengeance, and though the source material is from the Hyborian Age, it works as well as ever in the hands of these cossacks. And since these vandals just can’t keep their swords in their sheaths, even the token epic power-ballad (“Blood Sacrifice”) take a quick left turn and ends up all fighty, stabby and otherwise Odin-friendly. Hell, even when “Creature of Desire” heads into Thor levels of silliness (anyone remember the faux-epic “Thunder on the Tundra“?), the band’s chops make it workable and enjoyable.
Are there downsides? Well, as per usual these days, things run long. At over an hour, there’s a lot of sword swinging and throne usurping to sit through. The individual songs could also stand some trimming, as they average between six and eight minutes. The sound is also a bit bricky, with the dreaded “wall of sound” popping up when the music hits faster tempos. It doesn’t kill the album’s charm, but a richer sound would have made the material really pop.
The biggest appeal here, for me at least, are the vocals. Jake Rogers has the perfect kind of voice for this genre and uses his powerful mid-range to sell these tales of dungeons and wagons, making even the corniest lyrics seem legitimate. He never strives for air raid wails nor ball-distressing shrieks, and basically, he’s the front man an actual group of Visigoths would support. Rogers is aided and abetted by the guitar tandem of Jamison Palmer and Leeland Campana, and their macho riffs easily pass my “Banners in the Wind” field test (i.e. does the playing involuntarily conjure mental images of war banners). They effectively blend doom, epic and classic metal styles, always mindful to keep things trve and heavy and their solos are often quite emotive.
I realize I’m a sucker for this kind of metal, but even so, I’m nothing but impressed by Visigoth. This is a polished and powerful debut full of memorable songs, and it makes me eager to hear more. If you have a hankering for ballsy metal of the trve variety, delivered with barbarian sensibilities by guys with quick sword hands, this is your horde. Sacking Rome has never seemed more possible and affordable.